SPRINGFIELD — Manufacturing jobs are on the rebound nationwide, and Navistar International is a prime example: employment levels at the company have ballooned 166 percent since 2010.
The number of employees at Navistar has increased to 800, up from 300 at the end of 2010. In the last year alone, employment at the company jumped 60 percent from 500 to 800 employees, said Jim Rumpf, Springfield plant manager.
And earlier this year, officials announced plans to add 40 new jobs to the manufacturing facility in Springfield, the first time it has added new full-time union positions since 1999.
Rumpf told representatives from the U.S. Department of Labor and dozens of community leaders who toured the facility on Urbana Road on Wednesday the growth is the result of the company’s “flexible manufacturing strategy.”
“Building a complete family of products in this facility allows us to deliver our products to whereever our customer requires it,” Rumpf said.
“As we looked at that flexible manufacturing strategy and building a highest quality truck, that’s what has allowed us to grow here in Springfield,” Rumpf said.
Those who toured the facility watched as employees built its five truck models, such as the DuraStar, TerraStar, WorkStar, TransStar and ProStar. Prior to 2011, the plant only built the DuraStar model.
Jay Williams, director of the Department of Labor’s Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, lauded Navistar for recalling hundreds of laid-off workers and developing a successful multiple-product line in one year.
“It (shows) adaptability ... You knew and understood the need to be competitive on a global scale,” Williams told Navistar officials.
Williams said America is built on manufacturing, and though the industry has fallen on hard times, officials are seeing a “comeback” due the President Barack Obama administration committed to “putting America back to work.”
“The fact that manufacturing is adding jobs for the first time since the late 1990s — 400,000 jobs have been added over the past 2 1/2 years. It hasn’t been since the ’90s that we’ve seen expansion in the manufacturing sectors — that sector continues to lead the economic recovery,” Williams said.
Michael McDorman, president and CEO of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, said he hopes the trend continues at Navistar.
Navistar had about 6,500 employees in the 1980s, officials said.
McDorman said employment levels may never return to 6,500, but he said hopes the company can employ 2,000 to 3,000 employees someday.
“That should be the goal of Springfield. To grow this plant. It would take a number of years, but if manufacturing continues to improve and the truck market continues to grow, that means good things for Springfield,” McDorman said.
“This company made Springfield, and it can make Springfield again.”